Look far and wide, and what do we see? The most civilized nations, at least, the ones we've got at this point in our nascent human development, having made an uneasy accommodation to behaviour that they would historically wretch at as downright repellent.
It's none other than the law of Hammurabi, or tit for tat, writ in TNT.
So we arrive at the big question. What hath terrorism wrought?
These merciless scoundrels have compelled us to transform our own sense of right and wrong into a workable counterpoint to their own beastly behaviour. We have been compelled to consider killing them as a regrettably acceptable ethical necessity and, if a few thousand civilians happen to get in the way, what else can we do but keep the bombs and rockets flying.
This transformation of our own generally commendable ethical sense is, other than killing and maiming us physically, the most deleterious result of the murderous amorality of the terrorists. It is, if you will, their second-saddest triumph.
Here we are, the hope of the world, in terms of nations whose conduct is preferably guided by the mutually nourishing principle of the sanctity of life, compelled to wreak death and destruction.
Must we be reduced to combating it in the murderously unethical mud out of which terrorism launches its salvos or is there a way to remain on a higher plane while we contend with it for world domination, truth, justice, and American TV?
Can we, in fact, triumph over what, at present, appears to be the illicit accomplishment of our faux-religious foes?
Would we be the folks in the white hats, albeit soiled, if we couldn't?
But how might we achieve what presents itself as an unlikely distinction?
Why, simply by abstaining from being as unconscionably ruthless as the terrorists.
Sure, we have to defend ourselves, not to mention our precious infrastructure, which is, at its best, part of the common achievement, enhancement, and promise of the human race. Yes, we have to hunt them down and kill them before they kill more of us. But we don't have to stoop to the level of savage immorality that they do when they kill or capture us.
Tempting as it is to disregard them as an inconvenience, we should abide by the most recognized rules of engagement, that is, the Geneva Conventions. Abide by them even though we realize that the ill-informed and immoral assassins and torturers we're presently at war with do not qualify as enemy combatants, most justifiably because they themselves do not recognize such relatively humane agreements about how we should do battle with one another.
It is by putting ourselves firmly on the high ground of right conduct that we can remain above the terrorists, do what they may, and make them look, in the eyes of all unprejudiced humanity, like the lowdown criminals they have condemned themselves to be.
To go on a bit, with your patient indulgence at the brief suspension of laughter, in the defence of life, we must do our best never to harm and demean it and all we can to preserve and respect it. It is by being the champions of life that we can diminish and defeat those who have no care for it.
Let life be for life and death for death; then life must win, and death, in time, die.
Isn't that right, me hearties?
Tim Sexton is a writer, living in Florida, at last report.
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